Now that 60 million households are happily stuck with the microwave oven--disassociating all fears and pessimism tagged onto the unit when it was first introduced--it's time they explored its other virtues and capabilities.
Microwave users know they can't live without it for reheating, defrosting or simply warming coffee or boiling a cup of water for tea. Advanced micro-cooks have long discovered wonderful cooking results with vegetables, seafood and some desserts like candies and cakes.
Problems With Canning
The microwave's downfall is canning. For years, microwave fans have wanted to preserve foods in the microwave. Although it is possible to make jams and jellies in the microwave oven, authorities advise that the microwaved jars be stored in the freezer.
"The problem with canning," said Thelma Pressman, a microwave consultant in Encino, "was that you couldn't determine the internal heat of the jar because of the inconsistency of microwaves. They don't heat things evenly."
Now comes Micro-Dome.
They call it the "Microwave Food Preserver," rather than a canning device. "People have thoughts about exploding when you mention the word canning in the microwave," said Philip E. Harrison, vice president of sales and marketing for Micro-Dome Corp. in San Ramon, Calif.
Made from FDA-approved engineering plastic, Micro-Dome ($49) consists of an amber-colored canister with a lid that's equipped like a pressure cooker. The lid has two opposite handles, a whistle cap, a temperature regulator and a pressure indicator.
Standing 7 1/2-inches tall, the Micro-Dome can preserve food in a half-pint or one-pint wide-mouthed round Mason jar in less than 10 minutes. The operation is extremely simple: Put the covered jar of food in the Micro-Dome, fill with a small amount of water, then lock on the top. Place the unit in the microwave oven, set the timer for 10 minutes and process on HIGH at full power. After about 6, 8 or 10 minutes, the whistle will produce a chirping sound, indicating that the temperature needed (276 degrees) to preserve the food has been reached and the jar is vacuum-sealed. To prevent further heat treatment that would change the texture or color of the food, the jar should be removed and quickly cooled in cold water.
"It's a fabulous breakthrough," Pressman said after she had tested the appliance with strawberry jam, green beans and pineapple. "Everything tastes fresh. Pineapple, for instance, softens slightly and acquires a sweet flavor. It becomes a different dessert, which is wonderful for dieters because sugar is not needed.
"I like the little bell with the cutest chime. You're assured that the temperature for proper preservation has been reached. Until this, microwave preserving has been dangerous because even if you have been microwaving a jar for 20 minutes, one portion could be getting no heat at all."
According to Harrison, the applications are broad: "They range from very conventional fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season to more elaborate preparations like beef Burgundy, quick breads, creamy artichoke soup or peach flambe. It has special uses for RV owners who make their meals in advance for the next trip without the need for refrigerator or freezer storing. There's also the person who wants to save the extra spaghetti sauce," he said.
Good for Leftovers
In other words, the Micro-Dome is terrific for leftovers, particularly if they aren't being served the following day. Those on restricted diets will also find particular appeal in the Micro-Dome. Harrison cites an example of interest in the product coming from rest home operators, who have to prepare various types of meals for individual needs.
A concept that has been in the works for about five years, the Micro-Dome is a success because of the material used in the preserver.
"It is a special engineering resin manufactured by General Electric and used for medical purposes," Harrison said. "With the unique design and material, the plastic is able to withstand very high temperature and the high pressure needed to result in high vacuum and very fast processing that will retain the best texture and flavor."
Since they've been been getting great response with the preserver, the manufacturers are already in the planning stage for a larger version.
The Micro-Dome is available at Gelson's, Cookin Stuff (Torrance and La Mirada), Cook's Corner (Glendale), William's Gourmet (San Pedro) and Kitchen, Kitchen (Rancho Mirage).